Need for Speed: The Run preview


Written by Chris Price
Photos and illustrations by EA Games
04 Sunday 04th September 2011

For this I blame the rise of the ‘action racer’ – Dirt 3, Motorstorm, Blur and the most high impact example of this being the phenomenal Split/Second Velocity. With the closure of Black Rock Studios, Need For Speed looks every inch the competitor to seize the action racing heavyweight title based on the two levels I was privy to last week – and far more able to revel its own ridiculousness than the other race contender blockbuster season, Forza Motorsport 4. 

NFS modus operandi has always been escapism. And Need For Speed: The Run embraces this whole heartedly - and literally. The Run is an illicit, high-stakes three thousand mile road race across America - pursued by police, a shadowy criminal contingent, and other racers with an axe to grind/something to prove/issues with your clothing etc. God knows how poor old Jack Rourke can sleep with the anxiety issues he must be dealing with. Good thing you work out your anxieties by driving like a madman and flinging yourself around some very varied American roadways.

On playthrough, handling and power appear to be central to developers Black Box’s return to the driving seat. Keen to prove to Criterion that they’re no shrinking violets in the face of their superb franchise reboot in last year’s Hot Pursuit, it seems as if they’ve been studying night classes in Criterion’s classic Burnout Takedown for vehicle dynamics.

In the first of the two missions I sampled, ‘Buried Alive’ - an icy mountain slalom with a sole opponent is awash with wide corners provide ample space to slingshot your vehicle into, drop a handbrake turn to a 45-degree angle and power out with a nitrous-enhanced acceleration out of the corner. The weighting feels solid and crucially, in proportion to the speeds and acceleration of the silvery Porsche at your fingertips (continuing the NFS legacy to provide the latest in automotive culture, cars such as the McLaren MP4-12C, Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake, the brand new Lamborghini Aventador are just a few to be featured on release).

Good thing the controls are up to scratch, as your steeplechase seems to be taking place mid-volcanic eruption. EA are evidently pooling their investment in Battlefield 3’s Frostbite 2 graphics engine, putting it in charge of rendering some fantastic dynamic textures. Reflections of cascading landslides of ice and molten stone glance off your sleek silver chassis with a roving behind-the-car option camera that glimpses at glistening roadways snaking off into the distance. Balancing braking and boost is the only way to effectively avoid obstacles and still stay within range of catching your opponent. Flawless runs, passes and evades all deliver vital nitrous boost increments to keep you in the race.

‘Run for The Hills’ is more about finesse than velocity. You’re on a dusty chase through a dry Arizonian gulch, over uneven outcrops bouncing your car off the road if you’re too eager on the accelerator. The goal is to pass 10 vehicles. Simple in principle, but each mistimed corner or shunt will require more risk to reach your target. Careful reading of the terrain, steady tailgating and tactical usage of boosts is paramount. Statistic fans will doubtlessly relish award data tick across the screen, for clean passes, chains and evasive action.

The elements aren’t hugely original, but the series has always shown it can do effortless style. With a solid base already evident (several spots of fine-tuning is already being undertaken to the build I played), The Run is shaping up nicely.

With no experience of the storyline elements (aside from a few Vaseline smeared pre-race vignettes) it’ll be interesting to see how the linear crime-action storyline envelops the driving. But the strong foundations on show make for another potentially strong chapter in NFS’s 17 year history. My interest in the series has ebbed and flowed over the past few years, but consider it peaked in anticipation for The Run.


Need For Speed: The Run is out 18 November for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Wii, DS

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